A dilemma faces me. The Evil Dead remake just opened in the UK. As much as I have heard very mixed reviews of it, I do fancy seeing it on the big screen, really see those guts fly. However, this would involve going to the cinema, which I can find a very trying experience these days, mostly due to the irreconcilable fact that Hell is, as someone once observed, other people. Other people to whom the act of sitting down, turning their phones off and shutting the fuck up for a set amount of time is a completely alien concept. And that’s before you factor in the price and the food. I once saw a cinema lobby that proudly proclaimed it sold ‘Extra Crunchy Crisps’. In a fucking cinema. I despair, of life generally. So, while I weigh up the Pros and Cons of a cinema trip (Pros: Might have a good time, Cons: Might have to make someone eat their own iPhone), I am going to look at a super low budget British horror film from 2007 that certainly took a healthy amount of inspiration (for that read: practically wholesale rip-off) from the 1981 The Evil Dead. This is a film that apparently needed a whole three directors but no people who could actually act, which actually an impressive feat if you think about it. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you Dead Wood (Maybe I should have thought that sentence through more thoroughly) Spoilers To Follow.
You Can Tell It’s A British Film, Just Look At Those Teeth.
A guy runs for his life through some woods. We don’t know who or what is chasing him but I think it might be because he is wearing a truly vile shirt. He reaches a small gully in the woods (a lot of action takes place here and the thing is either about 5 feet deep or 15 feet deep, depending on what’s happening in the plot. Consistency folks, don’t you just love it?). On the other side, his tent and possible safety. He leaps for it but doesn’t quite make it, as he tries to pull himself up the whateveritis gets him and pulls him to his death. The entrance to the tent up zips and a girl gets out. Why didn’t he call to her for help if she was right there the whole time? She plaintively calls out for him as some CGI smoke wisps around her, but there is no answer.
This Ugly Shirt Is A Magic Eye Painting. If You Focus Your Eyes Enough You Will See…A Blurry Ugly Shirt.
Prologue over, we’re on to our main characters. A girl waits forlornly on some steps. She isn’t alone for long, a guy soon appears and as if there were any doubt this was a British film, he’s clutching case of Stella. They are going on some sort of camping trip, but neither of them seems too thrilled about it. There is inane conversation, then awkward silence. This is Jess and Milk (fucking really? I’m meant to sit here and type ‘Milk’ as someone’s name for the rest of this film?) A van (a very cool VW) draws up and our two sparkling conversationalists clamber aboard to join our other two hopefully as exciting characters. They set off on their trip. One of the others is called Webb (what is with all the stupid names?); the other is his girlfriend, Larri. And they are one of those kissy coupley couples that make everyone on their immediate vicinity want to be violently sick. She loves taking photos (and distracting her boyfriend when he is driving, silly cow) and seems intent on making a couple of the Milk and Jess, so they can double their powers of couples irritability I guess. Larri is basically a 5 year old as she soon starts up a throwing things competition with Milk, giggling all the while. He retaliates, but Webb isn’t too happy with the constant distraction. ‘Yeah, we’re driving’ says Larri. Yes you are, so maybe you should stopping titting about and remember you are in a fucking van that could kill someone. I am proved right as usual and as Webb turns around to tell Milk off the van hits something.
They get out to investigate but only find a blood smear on the front of the amazingly undamaged van. Turns out they hit a deer. It won’t make it to a vet and the thing is in pain so Webb does the decent thing and breaks its neck. Spirits suitably dampened (and they weren’t the most cheery souls to begin with), they continue on their way until they reach the middle of nowhere. Plenty of other deer roam the woods, maybe they’re going to try and get revenge for their pal. I wouldn’t mind that, I love a good Random Animal Goes Psychotic For A Random Reason movie. The group make their way along, seeing weasels and spider-webs and all the other wonders of nature, including rusty old abandoned cars. The only road is the one they came in on, so no one knows how they get this far into the woods. ‘They don’t belong here’ says Jess astutely. Larri has forgotten her camera (thank fuck) but Webb refuses to go back for it.
A Deer, A Nearly Dead Deer (No Signs Of Drops Of Golden Sun Though)
Milk is clearly jealous of how much Webb looks like Jason Segel and decides to impress Jess by climbing a tree and stealing some bird’s eggs for breakfast like a massive bastard (That old trick). The group plead with him to come down, but none of them point out what a dick he’s being by stealing the eggs in the first place, so I’ll tell him. Milk, that’s a shit thing to do mate. They hear a loud buzzing sound and then they get attacked by bees. I’m beginning to think this forest doesn’t like pesky disrespectful humans. They run from the CGI cloud of dots, sorry, I mean ‘bees’, until they reach safety. They then laugh in one of those tension relieving moments. I only mention it as they laugh in the most dreadful, unnatural way you can ever imagine. It’s like they practised long and hard on making it sound as forced as possible, like really grafted at it, and then filmed it.
Eventually they come across a campsite, and find the tent from the beginning, now destroyed, and the place strewn with litter. They poke about through the other people’s stuff (always a charming personality trait) and Jess finds a polaroid of awful shirt guy. For a moment Jess catches a glimpse of the girl in the photo as well, but when she looks back she is gone. Since there is no phone signal, the group decide to come back tomorrow to see if they have returned. As they leave we see what looks like a petrified face in the roots of a tree in the ever changing depth gully.
Bernard Black’s Younger, More Tanned Brother Wasn’t Much Of A Fan Of Camping.
For a moment my hopes soar as it looks like we going to launch into an episode of classic 80s cartoon The Raccoons, as a clearly cartoon background of a forest night skyline comes on screen. Sadly it was not meant to be as we cut back to our group of boring objectionables as they stir up a fire, having finally reached their campsite. ‘It’s really nice out here’ states Jess, with all the enthusiasm of someone asking for thrush treatment cream in Boots. ‘Yeah, you don’t get stars like that in the city’ answered Webb. I don’t think you get stars like that anywhere, considering they look like dots in perfectly straight lines. Were they really no stock footage of stars and skylines that could have been used? Why resort to this dreadfully cartoony CGI? They then get stoned and deface another tree. And cue montage they dance to no music and the camera goes wobbly and it’s all a bit Blair Witch 2: Book Of Shadows and all the dreadful things that entails. Jess gets her guitar out and sings a dreadful sub Wicker Man folk song (and when I say ‘sub’, I mean SUB). Larri freaks at an insect. In a forest? Who would have thought? She and Webb retreat to bed. Jess clearly doesn’t fancy another awkward chat with Milk any more than I do and she beds down as well. Larri and Webb start shagging. Jess and Milk listen, in their cramped shared tent. Awkward. But it gets awkwarder, as her and Milk tentatively get it as well. I think it’s meant to be sweet but all I can see is the awkward. Things are steamier in the other tent, as Webb tells Larri he loves her more than her Mum…Okay. Let me write that one down for future useage. This has the desired effect on her though as she is about to remove her bra when the scream of an animal of some sort pierces the night air. They pile out their tent, wondering what it was. Webb thinks it might have been the other two playing a trick and goes to investigate their tent. As he slowly unzips the tent Milk barrels out and pins him to the ground. They thought Webb and Larri made the noise. So yes it probably will be something supernatural because that’s the what the film is about but it could also be an animal, which would have been the logical explanation, and no one suggests it. Fucking city folk. They decide to share a tent like massive wimps.
When Webb stumbles out of the tent to the next morning, he finds the girl who lost her boyfriend at the beginning, making breakfast. Her name is Ketsy and she seems to be in quite a state. They make her tea and stare at her. She tells them she was here with her boyfriend Rob. He went to check the fire and then vanished. Ketsy doesn’t want to leave without finding him, so the others offer to help. She tells them about a lake nearby where they can clean up, however they deny passing any such lake yesterday. They go to check it out. ‘Doesn’t Ketsy seem a bit odd?’ asks Larri. Odd? No, nothing odd about forgetting all about one’s missing boyfriend, stripping off and going swimming in a surely freezing lake (this is Britain after all). Larri gets fed up with swimming and wants Webb to get out as well, but he’d rather stay in with the attractive strange woman. Larri isn’t keen on this idea and watches jealously from the side of the lake while reading Jaws as they frolic around. Ketsy doesn’t seem too concerned about Rob as this point.
Jess and Milk go for a walk, and he is already showing signs of being a level 5 clinger. They snog about (seriously Jess, if you’re going to date, you are going to have to do something about his name), then she sees and figure in a familiar horrible shirt and freaks. Milk can’t see anybody but they Jess wants to go back to the lake. At the lake, Webb and Ketsy are playing a hilarious holding your breath underwater game. Webb doesn’t come back up. Larri dives about trying to find him (to weird Jaws type music, because she was reading Jaws don’t you see? This type of in-joke does not fit the tone of film). She can’t find him and sits on the shore crying. Ketsy doesn’t even try to help. Jess and Milk come back and they don’t seem very concerned about Webb very likely being dead and they go back to camp. When they get there the tents and all their stuff have disappeared. They try to get back to road but get lost as their map vanished along with all their other things. Milk is suspicious of Ketsy and questions her about how much she knows about all these strange happenings. He thinks its Rob running around the woods freaking them out and killing Webb. Ketsy doesn’t answer him. She has a very fixated stare; I keep expecting her to go full on Carrie at the Prom.
As Well As The Evil Dead and Blair Witch It Also Appears The Film Makers Took Inspiration From Every Eastern Horror Film Made In The Last 15 Years.
Larri thinks she sees Webb running through the trees and gives chase, with Milk going after her. When he catches up with her they hear Jess scream and run back to where Milk left her and Ketsy. Jess has disappeared, leaving only her bag behind. Ketsy is still there though and is crying next to a tree. Larri’s questions about Jess’ whereabouts illicit no response other than Ketsy screaming and then attacking Larri. They tie Ketsy’s hands behind her back and continue onwards. It soon gets dark and they are totally lost. They see strange things and dark shadows flash before them. Convinced something is behind them, they run. They are surrounded by rustling noises and this bit so badly filmed its hard make out what is going on. Either it’s something massive or the trees are attacking them. They get split up and Larri drops the torch, when she turns it on a white faced demon thing snarls at her and then vanishes. Milk turns up and says he’s found something. It’s an old cabin and in further The Evil Dead rip off the camera does that Evil Dead zoomy bit (you know the thing I mean) and they get inside. They tie Ketsy up. Milk and Larri reminisce about summers past. They are cousins, which makes all the what I interpreted as flirting earlier really weird. ‘You’re already dead’ says Ketsy flatly, still in Evil Dead mode. Larri dreams about Webb, when she wakes up she sees that Ketsy has escaped. She wakes up Milk and they move on.
It’s now Sunday and I’ve never been happier to see one. Milk and Larri continue their pointless wandering. Milk complains a lot. Then thinks he can smell bacon, he abandons Larri to her fate and chases the smell. Larri, now alone, hears strange voices calling her name. Milk’s quest for bacon leads him to it, and also back to their own campsite. Jess appears and promptly starts acting weird, what with her now being a demon thing and all. This doesn’t faze Milk, as he’s keen to back to the snogging, he’s less keen when Jess turns into Ketsy, she strangles him and pushes him into the tree, where he melds with it and his twisted face becomes part of the trunk. Guess he’s now Under Milk Wood. Thank you! I’m here all week, try the fish *bows*. Larri also makes her way back to camp, where she finds the tree carving Webb did for her. Webb himself turns up, and strangely Larri doesn’t believe it’s him with him acting like an automaton and that. He morphs into Ketsy, who covers her eyes and starts counting in manner of hide and seek while Larri runs for it. A hand grabs her from the tree and trips her up and tent billows menacingly. She runs some more and then falls over. Ketsy watches from the trees. Larri sees the van in the near distance. And as they victorious music pipes up she runs towards it, only to get hit with a car that is driving way too fast in dense woodland.
THAT’S How Ents Are Made? Learn Something New Everyday.
When Larri comes to, the face of Ketsy fades into that of the man who hit her. He berates her for running out in front of his car and questions her as to what happened to her. In a trance like state she ignores him, calmly goes to the van, breaks the window and gets in. She retrieves the spare keys and starts the van. Car guy makes a run for it. Larri looks at her photos. Plenty of time for retrospection later, escape now. But she isn’t going to take this lying down. She rifles through the van until her finds what is either a giant lighter or a mini blowtorch. She returns to the campsite and douses it in petrol. Then she waits. Ketsy soon shows up, Larri whacks her with the petrol can but because she’s some sort of forest demon it doesn’t slow her down a notch. ‘I’m going to burn your forest down’ announces Larri blithely. The other character’s voices come out of Ketsy, pleading with her not to do it. Stupidly, she listens, and lowers the lighter. Ketsy goes to take it but Larri moves fast and goes to burn her, but the lighter doesn’t work. Ketsy throws her to the ground, but Larri manages to grab the lighter as Ketsy picks her up by the throat and goes to treeafy her. With the last of her strength Larri gets the lighter going and drops it onto the petrol soaked ground, burning them both to death.
Cut to some lovely deforestation. A group of lumberjacks go around marking trees for chopping. The possessed figure of Larri appears behind one of them, in possibly the only scene with any element of tension in the film; she jerkily advances with the help of jump cuts to loom behind him and attacks him. Ending the film with one of the only decent scenes seems pretty mean to me, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
So, an eco-horror in the vein of The Evil Dead and Blair Witch Project. And once again it’s a case of a good idea poorly executed. The acting is amateur, which is being charitable. If there’s a badly written line to be delivered unimpressively, these guys know how to do it. And there are a lot of bad lines on display here. The script is uninspired and clunky, the direction is flat. Most of set pieces are derivative of much better films (like the two listed above). Positives? Like I said, the forest itself attacking interlopers who do not treat it with respect by hurting animals and defacing its trees is a decent base idea. This wasn’t explained in any sort of detail, but that’s what I took from it. And the fact that it didn’t explain what the evil was I count as a positive as well. The forest itself was eerie, although some dreadful CGI kept taking me out of it, if it was all filmed in the forest why not utilise it? I also liked that the characters all looked like they could be real people you might pass in the street, no Hollywood glamour here. If only the acting hadn’t resembled an A-Level end of year drama performance after the students had been drinking cider in the park the night before. It’s not going to rock anyone’s world, and I wouldn’t recommend paying actual cash money for it, but if it turns up at 1.00am on Film4 on a Saturday after a night at the pub, give it go. And at the end of the day, as far as folk in peril in a forest, it’s a fuck sight better than Camp Blood.